In today’s world of hyper-connectivity, staying at the forefront of anything is almost impossible with tastes and trends changing on a whim. Artists and creatives, musicians and performers are all searching for their own way to express their creativity and output their perception of reality, whether that be through the medium of song or art, poetry or fashion…
Throughout this blog, I will share my thoughts and opinions on how we can stay at the forefront of our artistic endeavours; more specifically those in the world as a gigging musician (people who perform regularly and do their best to fill a venue on a mid-month Wednesday night in a bar outside of town).
Part and parcel of being a performer and not just a songwriter, is the expectation that you will provide a performance, whether that be a huge rock show with fireworks, lights and huge speakers in front of 20,000 people - or an intimate venue, where you can hold 20 hearts within your palm and softly deliver a truly beautiful, carefully crafted piece of art.
What you do with an audience is up to you, some of those lucky enough will have instances where they are surrounded by a great listening audience that pays attention to each song and claps after each ending chord; the type of gig that makes the 2am arrival to your front door after a long night worth it.
Other days you will be playing down someone’s local in the back end of nowhere for a cut of the door share at roughly 2.783%, performing alongside 68 other support bands for a headline act, who are most likely there because the landlord knows the drummer’s dad.
*Bonus points if this event is called ‘name of the pub’-fest*
Enough of the bitterness though!
As a musician, you can market yourself in 3 different formats - digital, physical and verbal.
Verbal marketing is arguably the oldest and best way to advertise yourself to others; there is nothing better than telling your family, friends, work colleagues and that one guy you know kind of well from the coffee shop next door, that you have a gig later that month and you would really appreciate their attendance.
Physical marketing is often missed nowadays as an important contributor to a local area’s awareness of a particular performer - the power of a well-placed poster, a flyer on a table, or an advert in a paper all helps to give some impetus to a potential new audience member.
Digital marketing is of course the easiest, most cost effective and widespread medium you can use within the advertising front of promotion. With a whole host of free-to-use websites which help with the design process for posting to different platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Google, the layout functions and tips / tricks on how to grab a user’s attention is more saturated than ever.
Remember though, because digital marketing is so easy, everyone else will be doing it. You will need to be a cut above the rest when it comes to presentation, information and the most important bit - what you sound like at the gig; I’ve seen some fantastic promotional material brandished about, enticing me to a musician’s show, only to find a thoroughly unrehearsed and unprofessional performance.
Obviously putting up an advert 3 months before the day isn’t going to do much for attendance, so keeping the public reminded is always helpful - a simple reposting on your band’s Instagram or Facebook of your event will give that little nudge to anyone interested that yes, it’s still on. If you’re using physical material such as flyers, make sure your flyer drops are well stocked by asking the venues where you’ve dropped them off if many have been taken.
Another great place that many people forget to advertise is the venue itself. An easy one to do, most venues (if not all) will love the fact you’ve made an effort to produce something and will happily display a poster for the event. Make sure however that in-house posters do not show your other gigs in town as this may lose them business!
Let me help first by saying arrive early! Leave early from wherever you set off, make sure you’ve packed everything you need, double check and triple check well before you need to leave.
If you’re setting up for a band and you start at 9pm - arrive for 7:50 to be ready to setup and soundcheck for the next hour, make the cables neat on stage and get everything looking presentable, not to mention it makes the area you’re standing on 1000x safer - I’m looking at you lead guitarists! Soloists can relax and take a casual 30-40 minutes to set up, as they only have their own sound to balance.
Have at least one spare of the little things! Every disaster like a missing jack lead or broken strings or a blown fuse can be sorted much easier if you’ve got spares of things and have left yourself enough time to sort the issues out if you arrive to find something is missing/broken. If you are local to the Tunbridge Wells area, you can always pop in to Brittens Music to grab some strings, leads, straps, and any other things you may need!
This is a great time to work out just how well your marketing has worked, so if you’re running your own PA - allow for either an empty room (hopefully not for the whole gig) while you’re sound checking as when it fills up, the sound won’t make it past the first few rows if you’ve not accounted for the proper levels. At the point when everything sounds good in the mix, make sure to ONLY turn the master volume up/down according to the sound out front. Turning up individual instruments is a bad move as it becomes a race to the top to hear yourself (on-stage monitors will help this a lot!)
*Things to consider when booking with a venue: ask where the band will be playing, where the nearest plug points are in relation to that space, what the running times are, limitations for noise and overall volume - what style of music they are expecting and whether it’s meant to be background music or an ‘in your face’ style performance.
Most importantly ask what the fee will be AND how long you’ll be expected to perform for, and if you don’t personally know the person responsible for booking you - GET THIS IN WRITING*
Be prepared as you can be. Remember whilst not every gig will be fantastic, you will learn more from the ones that don’t go well than the ones that do - it’s a tough way to earn a living, but thoroughly rewarding knowing you’re not behind a desk writing a blog about it!
See you on the scene,